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another exam commentary for Level 3 Garden Planning
by Janet Prescott - Monday, 6 July 2020, 12:59 PM

R3112 June 2019 Q2.

a)      Name TWO distinct hard landscaping materials that could be selected to provide a permeable path. [2 marks]

b)     Describe TWO benefits and TWO limitations of using grass for paths (other than permeability). [8 marks]

This question relates to the following parts of the syllabus:

Outcome 1: Understand the contribution made by hard landscaping features to garden design.

1.1 Identify how hard landscaping features may contribute to garden design. This relates to both ornamental gardens open to the public and domestic gardens. Features to include: paths, seating areas, driveways, walls, fences, pergolas, ramps and steps, children’s play areas, rock gardens, water features, containers.

1.2 Describe a range of materials suitable for these hard landscape features to meet aesthetic, functional and sustainable design requirements. Materials to include: brick, stone, gravels, concrete, wood, bark, rubber, plastics, glass, fibre glass, metals, tarmac. Description of significant characteristics to include: - Aesthetic requirements: colour, contrast, unity, harmony, texture; - Functional: soft/hard, non-slip, hard wearing, life- span, maintenance requirements, safe (e.g. free of splinters, safety glass); - Consider factors such as environmental sustainability, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), locally sourced, recycled, carbon footprint, reclaimed, permeability.

Outcome 2: Understand the contribution made by soft landscaping features to the design of a garden.

2.4 Describe the design possibilities of grassed areas. Design possibilities to include: - Aesthetic requirements: colour, contrast, texture, space (void), mowing effects and heights, turf mazes, parterres; - Functional: recreation and relaxation, access, viewing area; - Sustainability: permeability, biodiversity. Maintenance considerations for all of the above.


For part a) you just need to name two materials for a permeable path. The examiners’ comments suggest the following – gravel, resin bound aggregate, bark chippings, and permeable block paving.  A specified stone or paving was accepted if it was stated that sand was used instead of mortar.

Part b) requires a lot more detail. Make sure you read the question properly and don’t include permeability in your answer here. There are 8 marks for this so quite a bit of detail is expected. The examiner’s comments state that marks were lost when insufficient detail was given. Suitable answers were suggested as:

·        Grass provides a wildlife habitat, providing insect life/worms for birds

·        Grass may be more aesthetically pleasing with the natural green surface softening the garden design

·        Grass may be more pleasant to walk on with its soft surface

·        Grass seed/turf cheaper to install than named hard landscaping

·        Grass can be used to create curved shapes more easily compared to concrete paving slabs/or other valid example of hard landscape. No mark was given if comparison was with resin bound aggregate or gravel.

·        As part of a design grass paths provide unity, linking areas of lawn

·        In environmental terms grass provides a cool area compared to hard landscaping and reduces CO2 levels.

Important points to note from this are that if you are making a comparison, you need to think carefully what you are comparing with. Also, just stating ‘cheaper’ or similar points aren’t valid without a correct comparison.

The examiners’ comments suggest the following as limitations:

·        Grass can wear easily creating unsightly bare patches

·        They need high maintenance with mowing/edging etc.

·        They can easily become slippery/wet causing a health and safety hazard

·        They may not be suitable for all year use, when frozen or wet

For this sort of question, if you are stuck for answers, it is always worth just sitting and picturing examples of the feature in the question, i.e. grass paths in this case,  in gardens you know. This might prompt ideas for benefits and limitations!